Camp Bestival 2011

By Dudley Do-Right

Having had a great time last year at Camp Bestival – Bestival’s family-friendly baby brother – we returned to deepest Dorset with high expectations. Set in the lush grounds of Lulworth Castle this younger sibling has been fattened up with the addition of another 10,000 people to an approx 30,000 capacity. This means it’s now pushing it’s ‘intimate & boutique’ status (you notice the increase when looking for a tent-space or queuing for toilets) but just about gets away with it. Let’s hope they draw the line here though.

Again the line-up struck a perfect balance of entertainment for the parents, the kids, and the growing number of young teens who made up the audience. The Kids Garden allowed the kids to bounce, ride, swing, tight-rope walk or just run-around to their heart’s content. The House Of Fairy Tales, curated by artist Nick Turk, took you to a magical parallel dimension: witches with attitude teaching kids bad things, an anarchic medieval band conducted by audience members, a sound lab where you can create fantastical noises, and a 4-piece band who’s combined age can’t have been more than 40 years rocking out like pros.

In keeping with the Medieval fancy-dress theme this year the Lulworth knights were jousting each day, drawing a huge crowd & plenty of “Huzzah!”s for their dare-devil horsemanship, whilst nearby in the woods a troupe of actors, some mingling with the crowd, put on a Medieval wedding, enticing everyone to join in with the Olde Worlde revelry.

Other attractions included a Playstation ‘Cocktails & Dreams’ arena, fairground rides, countless (not to mention tireless) children’s entertainers, arts & crafts workshops, food & drink a-plenty, and even a ante-chamber of the castle decked out with cushions for people to lose themselves listening to classic albums, such as KLF’s ‘Chill Out’, on a superb Lynn system.

Meanwhile superstars of children’s TV such as Dick & Dom, The Zingzillas, & the phenomenon that is Mr Tumble, kept the young ‘uns entertained & gave the parents some breathing space.

The music line-up was pretty safe, going for tried & tested feel-good artists over edge/innovation, but this is a festival that understands its audience & caters for them accordingly.

Following the slick wine-bar pop/soul of ABC, Blondie continued the 80’s revival by headlining on the Friday. Debbie Harry shed the years as she worked her way through the gears, effortlessly knocking out the classics & keeping the dreaded “new tracks” to a minimum, even rocking out with ‘Fight For Your Right To Party’ at one point.

On Saturday The Wonder Stuff dusted off their ‘Eight Legged Groove Machine’ reminding us how vital they once sounded before they discovered fiddles & inadvertently opened the doors for the likes of (*shudder*) The Levellers.

Eliza Doolittle straddled the teens/parents market with her sunny pop, whilst Mark Ronson was the underwhelming headliner – the majority of his set still dependent on his Versions album from 6 years ago that, without the guests on the album, reveals him as a half-decent covers band, but not much else.

Sunday found Katy B strutting her pop/club crossover on the main-stage, getting all ages dancing in the sunshine, whilst the anticipation about the headliners grew & grew…

As dusk fell Primal Scream took to the stage to play the timeless ‘Screamedelica’ album in it’s entirety to a rapt crowd. Bobby Gillespie, resplendent in golden shirt, long of hair & full of energy, seems to have found a secret worm-hole through space & time back to ‘91. And within a few bars of ‘Moving On Up’ he’d successfully transported most of the audience back with him. ‘Higher Than The Sun’ still sounds like it’s been beamed in from outer space, Mani doing justice to Jah Wobble’s thunderous bassline & Little Barrie adding a killer hook as it built to a crescendo of blissed out noise. Post-rock, post-jazz, post-everything.

‘Loaded’ & ‘Come Together’ revived the halcyonic, ecstatic vibe of yesterday, fuelled this time by alcohol and the rush of good memories, accompanied by the present-day accessories of kids dancing on shoulders or blissfully asleep in a nearby trolley.

A jaw-dropping firework display brought a close to the proceedings and sent everyone off deep into the night: to embarrass teenage offspring by getting down in the dubstep tent, down cocktails in the Black Dahlia bar, or tuck loved ones up back in the tent. A thoroughly good time had by all.

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